Review of deutsche umwelthilfe: government knocks on tax office door

At the urging of the CDU, the Federal Ministry of Finance requests a report on the non-profit status of Deutsche Umwelthilfe. Greens are outraged.

The German Environmental Aid has obtained driving bans for older diesel cars in many places Photo: dpa

After the CDU spoke out in favor of a review of the non-profit status of Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH), the federal government wants to contact the responsible tax office. In its answer to a Green Party question, which is available to the taz, the Federal Ministry of Finance admits that the government is not responsible for a review.

"Whether and to what extent the requirements for the recognition or withdrawal of non-profit status apply to the corporation named in the question is examined and decided by the competent fiscal authority in its own competence," writes SPD State Secretary Bettina Hagedorn. Nevertheless, the government is officially intervening in the proceedings: "The Federal Ministry of Finance will have the responsible state authority report on the matter," the letter says.

With this, the SPD-led Ministry of Finance is implementing a demand of the CDU. After a corresponding resolution of the CDU party conference in December, Chancellor Angela Merkel had declared in the Bundestag that one would "look on the government side" whether DUH met the requirements for non-profit status.

"Even if the tax authorities determine that DUH is a non-profit organization, this does not absolve us from taking a closer look," Merkel said. In fact, the Singen tax office, which is responsible for DUH, has never found fault with the organization. Only in the past September the non-profit character for the next five years had been confirmed, said environmental assistance managing director Jurgen Resch.

Punishment for successful work

The Green Party is sharply critical of the government’s approach. "Obviously, Angela Merkel wants to exert political pressure on the responsible tax office in this way," said the parliamentary group’s budgetary spokesman, Sven Kindler, to the taz. "Such a threat is unacceptable in a democratic constitutional state."

With successful lawsuits, Umwelthilfe has caused numerous municipalities to have to enact driving bans for older diesel cars. That is precisely what the CDU reproaches it for. The association is using its right to sue "without regard to the economic damage or other interests that are contrary to its goal," according to a letter from party headquarters to the Deutscher Naturschutzring.

Kindler considers it scandalous that DUH is to be punished for its successful work. "It is crass that an environmental organization that takes action against breaches of the law is being attacked by the chancellor – and not the criminal car industry, which has lied and cheated without restraint," he says.

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